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Jury Instruction Corner
By Thomas Lundy
The prosecution's burden of proof is not satisfied by conflicting inferences that are in a state of equipoise
On appeal of a jury verdict, the reviewing court must presume that the
jury “resolved any [evidentiary] conflicts in favor of the prosecution,
and must defer to that resolution.” Wright v. West, 505 U.S. 277,
296-97, 112 S.Ct. 2482, 120 L.Ed.2d 225 (1992). However, when
conflicting inferences are equally probable or, in other words, when the
evidence is in equipoise, “the party with the burden of proof loses.” Simmons v. Blodgett, 110 F.3d 39, 41-42 (9th Cir. 1997); see also Rexall v. Nihill, 276 F.2d 637, 644 (9th Cir. 1960); Reliance Ins. v. McGrath, 671 F.Supp 669, 675 (N.D. Cal. 1987); Estate of Obernolte,
91 Cal.App.3d 124, 129, 153 Cal.Rptr. 798 (1979) (“equal probability
does not satisfy a burden of proof....”). The evidence must provide a
reasonable basis to conclude that one inference is “more probable” than
the other. See United States v. Ramirez-Rod
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